Oscar’s youngest nominee, Quvenzhané Wallis of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” will once again grace the screen at the Sundance Film Festival. This year, she appears in “Boneshaker,” a short film by NYU filmmaker Frances Bodomo. But Wallis is not the only Sundance alumna to be found among the roster of 65 shorts playing in competition — helmers Kat Candler, Tony Donoghue, Nash Edgerton, Daniel Sousa and Spencer Susser are all returning with work that may shore up their reputations as filmmakers to watch.
Here, in alphabetical order, is a preview of ten shorts that will have everyone in Park City buzzing.
Texas-based Kat Candler helms a strong follow-up to her 2012 Sundance short “Hellion.” Candler draws extremely naturalistic performances from her cast in this nine-minute drama that culminates with a beleaguered heavy metal singer explaining to his young daughter why he’s come home injured.
This is the filmmaking debut of writer-director Frances Bodomo, a Ghanaian filmmaker getting her MFA at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Describing her short as a personal/autobiographical story, Bodomo has crafted a 13-minute drama that tracks a family’s search for a cure for their troubled child, played by Quvenzhané Wallis. If there was any doubt that the camera loves Wallis’s face, this short dispels it.
A mere six minutes in running time, this short surely has a higher percentage of key players that are Sundance alumni than any film of any length playing this year’s festival. The Australian filmmaking collective Blue Tongue Films, which has had nine short films (including festival faves “Bear,” “Spider” and “I Love Sarah Jane”) and three features (“Hesher”) screen at Park City, produced the project. Co-directors Nash Edgerton and Spencer Susser enlisted New Zealand’s Taika Waititi (“Two Cars, One Night,” “Boy”), whom they met at Sundance, to co-write and star in this impressive comedy about a man waking up with a hell of a hangover.
“Fall to Grace”
Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra continues to point her lens at political figures. Her most recent project is this 48-minute portrait of former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey. An HBO film that Pelosi spent more than 18-months shooting, the doc is paired with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s 40-minute “The Battle of amFAR” in the festival’s Documentary Shorts Program 2. Together, the two make up a cohesive program that rivals any of the feature docs being shown at this year’s festival.
Animator Daniel Sousa follows up his 2006 Sundance short “Fable” with the 13-minute tale of a feral boy brought back to civilization, with very mixed results. Clearly very knowledgeable about fairytales and mythology, the Rhode Island School of Design instructor has created an animated story that feels both familiar and surprising. The short has already spent several months on the animation festival circuit, playing festivals in Russia, Romania, Mexico, Canada and Poland.
“Irish Folk Furniture”
This feel-good documentary lasts only nine minutes, but during that time we watch 16 pieces of traditional rural furniture get lovingly restored. Director Tony Donoghue’s 2008 environmental piece, “A Film from My Parish: 6 Farms,” previously screened at Sundance.
The brainchild of Hollywood actress-screenwriter-turned-director Michelle Morgan (“Girl Most Likely”), this highly enjoyable 17-minute comedy features a neurotic woman (Morgan) who feels she should keep in touch with the friendly cashier at her local grocery store, despite the fact that they have nothing in common.
One of the most surreal films at the festival, this fascinating 11-minute short documents primates at the Edinburgh Zoo as they watch TVs playing a fictional drama crafted specifically for their entertainment that features the things that most fascinate them: sex, violence and the removal of masks. Filmmaker Rachel Mayeri describes herself as a media artist working at the intersection of science and art.
A product of Cartoon Network Studios, this 11-minute animated short, which will delight viewers of all ages, stars a snowman who, against his best interests, takes home a lost, fire-generating wolf cub. Cal-Arts grad Pendleton Ward’s TV credits include creating “Adventure Time.”
“When the Zombies Come”
Have you ever watched “The Walking Dead” and wondered what you would do during a zombie invasion? An employee at Ace Hardware shares his plan in Jon Hurst’s super-fun, audience-pleasing nine-minute doc, which has already taken home the best documentary prize at the DragonCon Film Festival.